As I noted in a 2016 article here in the PRIDE, attending conventions has positive and measurable effects on those who attend. Fandom or geek conventions, related to science fiction and fantasy, comic books, horror, anime, and the like, build community, improve creative thinking, and decrease stress; more about that later. This month, two such conventions come to mind: San Diego ComicCon, of course, and our local summer traditional anime fest, AkaiCon.
AkaiCon 90s Turbo Edition runs Friday, July 14 through Sunday, July 16 at the Farm Bureau Exposition Center (Formerly Wilson County Expo Center) 945 East Baddour Parkway Lebanon, TN 37087. Parking at the Expo Center is free, and there is lots of it. AkaiCon brings over two thousand cosplayers, gamers and fandom enthusiasts together.
This is the 9th year of AkaiCon in person, so come dressed in your favorite costume (Cosplay) and enjoy a weekend of fun and excitement at their 79,000 square-foot event space. Costume is not required, but it does enhance the fun.
Events and activities will include Fun for all ages; Cosplay contest; EDM dance party; Live music events; Industry guest meet and greets and autograph signings; Video game free play and tournaments; Collectible card games; 20,000+ square-foot vendor and artist space with over 60 different sellers; Adult “After Dark” events; Interactive programming; Fan curated panels and events; and so much more.
For more than 10 years, AkaiCon has been a place for people from all types of fandoms regardless of who you are to hang out and build relationships. AkaiCon is a place for all people, and they hope to provide something for everyone each year. Single or multi-day passes are available online at akaicon.com or at the door.
When they started AkaiCon back in 2013, Devin Adkins, Cody Thomas, and Cody Bottoms shared a vision to offer a fun and safe place for people of all ages to dress up in a costume and be a super-hero for the weekend. They wanted every person in attendance to feel welcomed like family, and they invited people of all ages to attend.
Throughout the years, they have had attendance range from 500 people at the start, to over 2,000 people at their peaks. Their numbers keep growing, and this is because the attendees are providing wonderful energy to their event. They also provide unique and fun entertainment due to the dedication of their other star co-chair and programming director Dee Powers.
They strive to bring a fun and welcoming environment – even if comic books are not your thing. They have gaming tournaments, and welcome cosplayers to join in, and have over 60 artists and vendors present in their curated dealer room. They would be honored for you to join the family.
AkaiCon prides itself on being a family friendly event. Children 12 years of age and under get in free to AkaiCon with one adult ticket purchase. (Limit 4 free children’s passes with one adult ticket purchase.) People 15 years of age and under must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older or a legal guardian.
They welcome and accept people of all ages. However, they do offer mature (18+/age restricted) programming in the later evening hours. Anyone wishing to attend mature 18+/age restricted programming must provide valid id with proof of age.
Convention Special Guests
Guest Oppai Princess is back at AkaiCon. The Oppai Princess is a black, aro-queer, Twitch streamer, voice actress, published cosplayer and plus size model who has shaken up the industry with her outspoken realness and risque cosplays. She is also a business owner, mental health advocate, and body positivity advocate for her plus size peers within the gaming and cosplay community.
Nashville resident DJ Aazera brings a unique experience to the tables. Their passion for music radiates when they play, the infectious feeling feeding into the crowd and creating an elevated experience for everyone. Each set is a new journey for the crowd, no two nights are the same. DJing professionally since 2010, their multi-genre flexibility has earned Aazera residencies at clubs in the Nashville area and recurring slots at dance parties held by fandom events all around the US. They have also forayed into Twitch streaming, where they can be seen playing fun dance music and playing video games week to week.
Cosplay Guest MutantGlue has been cosplaying since 2017. She says: My first cosplay was Gambit; from there, I did Team Rocket and Storm. My cosplays (those mentioned and others) led me to be sponsored by a comic book company named SoveReign Comics LLC after the owner saw my cosplayers and reached out to work with me. From it, I created my brand, The Chameleon Coalition, a cosplay organization that looks out for our fellow cosplayers, at cons, around the world. My cosplays range from Marvel to Anime, with gaming and Disney sprinkled about here and there. Reliving childhood movies, cartoons, and games is so refreshing, and it gives you a break from reality in such a sense of nostalgia that it just fills your soul with joy.
Keith Silverstein, Noted African American Anime Voice Actor
Returning since he was here in the area for MTAC Haiku in 2017 is Keith Silverstein, a veteran voice actor with an impressive and diverse list of credits, including over 500 entries on IMDB. He’s the voice of Torbjorn in the smash hit game Overwatch, Hisoka on Toonami’s Hunter x Hunter, Hawkmoth on the fan favorite Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, Speedwagon in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and baddie Gild Tesoro in One Piece : Gold. He can also be heard as Vector the Crocodile in the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise. Resident Evil fans know him as HUNK. Street Fighter fans will recognize him as Gouken. To fans of Viz’s new Sailor Moon he’s the maniacal Professor Tomoe.
Not enough for you? Here are a few other titles under his VO belt: Persona 5, Skip Beat, Batman: Arkham Knight, Glitter Force, Bleach, K Missing Kings, Magi, Tiger & Bunny, Persona Q, Skyrim, World of Warcraft, Soul Calibur, Doraemon, Skylanders, Naruto, AJIN, Call of Duty Black Ops III, Sword Art Online, Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, Durarara!!x2, and Disney’s Stitch! Other notable credits include Lupin the Third in Lupin the Third: Jigen’s Gravestone, Kirby O’Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Char Aznable in Gundam The Origin.
Keith Silverstein has also ventured into radio work, which includes doing the voices of FBI agent Peter Bourland and Santo in Focus on the Family’s long-running Christian radio drama Adventures in Odyssey, George in I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Carl in Sunday Chronicles, as well as multiple radio spots.
He has also provided the voices for dozens of video games including League of Legends, AION, Resident Evil, Sonic Free Riders, Sonic Colors, Bleach: The 3rd Phantom, Tales of Graces and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. He has dubbed Char Aznable in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Mr. S in Doraemon, Kenji Tsukino in Sailor Moon and also voices Doctor Kirby O’Neil, April O’Neil’s dad in Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He voiced the recurring villains Ulric, Brute, and Rascal in Glitter Force, which was released on Netflix. He also voiced the main villain Hawk Moth in the CGI animated show Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir which aired on Nickelodeon.
Now About the Health Benefits of Attending Conventions
As I noted in my April 2016 article here in the PRIDE, growing up geek can be lonely; a convention, however, is the antidote. It’s a time and place for people who understand. That community felt at conventions has real and tangible benefits. Community is a basic need of humankind. It’s so important that psychologist Abraham Maslow included it in his hierarchy of human needs. Furthermore, Psychology Today reports that the social connections built at conventions “buffer us from stress, boost our immune system, give us a sense of belonging, motivate us, bring us joy, and make us feel liked and loved.”
At conventions, high-level cognitive play is practice for creative problem-solving. According to the National Institute for Play (Yes, there is a National Institute for Play: www.nifplay.org/), such immersive play can transcend the reality of our ordinary lives, and in the process germinate new ideas, and shape and reshape them. Given enriched circumstances, and access to novelty, our play drive takes us into these realms spontaneously.
The Institute references Einstein as a specific example of the application of this sort of play. At the age of 16, Einstein imagined himself traveling at the speed of light, catching up with it, and riding it “like a surfer.” This thought experiment helped move him down the path to his theory of special relativity. So play, especially the deep and difficult and immersive sorts of play that geeks engage in at conventions, is actually serious and important work.
Noted psychiatrist Dr. David Sack describes a trip to a convention as a “mental vacation.” During a con, attendees enter a fantasy headspace, and engage in days-long, outside-the-box thinking. Saying that the imagination is powerful is cliche, but Dr. Sack points out that the benefits of the imagination have been proven in research. Imagining goals has been shown to help people achieve them, and Dr. Sacks says, “Just think what goals you might reach if you imagine things from the point of view of someone for whom ordinary rules don’t apply.”
Stress has been linked to premature aging and shortened lifespans. A study conducted jointly by Harvard and Stanford says that a stressful job will shorten your lifespan. The British Psychological Society found that even low levels of stress can lead to an increase in mortality. All of which means that going to conventions can lead you to live a longer, better life.
So, as the late Leonard Nimoy as Star Trek’s Mister Spock might put it, go to a convention so you can “Live Long and Prosper.”
A Final Note about Comic Con International San Diego 2023 (and Dragon Con)
This is definitely not the year to go to San Diego for Comic Con, July 20-23. Over the past two decades, it has developed a reputation for being the place to find out about and meet the future of geek entertainment, especially in film and television. It has also been the place to go to meet and get autographs from and photographs with major screen stars.
But, with the Writers Guild, Directors Guild, and SAG-AFTRA labor disputes, and the delays and postponements of various projects, it won’t be the same this year.
Specifically, many of those artists, i.e. screen actors, are contractually engaged to represent specific shows and films and studios when they attend this and some other conventions. The strikes mean that they are prohibited from attending on behalf of a studio or specific film or tv show. So, since their big draw is putting these folks on display at the convention, studios like Marvel, Disney (Star Wars), Universal, Warner Bros DC, HBO, Netflix, Sony, to name a few, are not attending Comic Con, and neither is the talent they would have provided, i.e. the stars of their films and shows.
However, this does not impact conventions like Dragon Con, August 31 – September 4, who contract directly with talent, and thier representatives, independent of studios, for appearances. So, those of us who regularly attend the con in Atlanta over labor Day weekend, can still get our fill of all the fun as usual. That includes actors and actresses who are there basically on their own, not as the promotional entities promulgated by a corporation. Huzzah!
More about who’s coming to and what’s happening at Dragon Con will be presented here in a few weeks.